According to the National Statistics Council, 37% of employee time is spent in meetings, and 47% of employees consider those meetings (when in excess) to be the biggest waste of their time. In fact, they believe that attending too many meetings is a bigger waste of time than scrolling around on social media and digging themselves out of an unnecessarily flooded inbox (Think: all the emails on which they're CC'd that don't pertain to them).
So why do we have daily standup meetings if so many employees would rather spend their time doing just about anything else? And, if your daily standup meeting feels absolutely necessary, how can you be sure to host an effective and efficient one that doesn't waste a second of any attendees' time?
What is the purpose of daily standup meeting?
The purpose of a daily standup meeting is to go over where exactly the team, collectively, is at so that everyone is on the same page. So, what is discussed in daily scrum meeting? Typically, the following:
- Any progress made thus far (as well as any big wins since yesterday's standup meeting)
- What's on the agenda for the day and/or week ahead
- Goals and deadlines for those goals
How do you start a standup meeting?
Here are eight ways to start a standup meeting that pans out to be actually effective and efficient.
1. Open with an icebreaker.
Use the first few minutes of the meeting to wake everyone up and get them all engaged. One way to get people engaged is by getting them to start talking about themselves. So open the meeting with an icebreaker that does just that.
If it's a Monday or a Friday, for example, you can ask each employee to share one thing they did over the last weekend or one thing they plan to do over the impending weekend. You may also ask each employee to share their intentions or goals for the day, in one brief sentence. This can inspire employees to set goals and then work mindfully throughout the day, too.
2. Start with a pop quiz.
Start the meeting with a pop quiz on a topic pertaining to the meeting. Quiz everyone on a topic that the meeting agenda will dive into, for example. Of course, the employees wouldn't be graded or even judged for their answers to this pop quiz, but it will get them thinking about the meeting agenda. And it'll get their brains churning and burning early on.
There's no better way to kick off the day than by bringing in and enjoying a big breakfast — especially a hearty one that everyone pulls together as a collective team. Have a sign-up sheet for who is going to bring what (just make sure that you're aware of any allergies in the office first!) so that no two people bring the same dish. Then, someone may bring in the eggs while another employee might bring the bacon or sausage and another might bring the fruit bowl or the croissants with butter and jellies.
Of course, you can't ask employees to bring in breakfast every morning, as this is a task in and of itself. (And it'll cost them!) But you can host a potluck once a week or once a month. And serve a continental breakfast the rest of the time that's on the company. This might be as simple as some muffins and bananas.
4. Use a talking stick (or a modern-day equivalent).
Use a talking stick, a plastic microphone, a token chip or something else to pass around the table and give to the person who is speaking. Because interruptions happen too often in meetings (especially to women!) only the person holding the talking stick (or modern-day equivalent) is allowed to speak. Everyone else must wait their turn.
Randomization will also help to keep participants' attention. They each will know that they'll get a chance to speak, but they're not sure when. So they'll stay focused throughout the whole meeting in case their turn is next.
5. Use a timer for topics on the agenda.
It's easy to go off on tangents, especially when the topic is a hot one on the meeting agenda. That's why it's important to cut yourselves off after some time and come back to the topic at a later time. You can do this more easily with a timer, such as an hour-glass sand timer (as opposed to an annoying beeper that early in the morning, which your employees will surely grow to resent after some time).
Set the timer on the table before you begin each topic. When the timer is up, move on to the next topic. Keep note of what you need to talk about again or what will need some more time. This will also help you figure out about how much time each topic needs so you can better structure your meetings going forward and not waste anyone's time.
6. Leave room for a "Questions and Answers" segment.
Use at least the last 10 or 15 minutes of the meeting for an open questions and answers segment. This will allow the employees in the meeting a chance to ask anything they've been curious about all meeting but have been holding back so as to not interrupt any of the key speakers. Just make sure that you cut off the segment when the meeting time is actually over, because going overtime is going to frustrate the other employees in the room who have a schedule to which they need to tend. Any questions for which there is no time can be handled one on one or be saved for another time.
7. Provide energy-boosting drinks.
Offer some energy-boosting drinks for your meeting attendees in the morning, whether that's coffee, matcha tea or something else. Just be sure to have it available for them so they don't spend the whole morning waiting for the meeting to be over so they can go grab a coffee and then wake up.
8. Ask what needs to be asked.
Know what your meeting is about. Ask yourself: What are the three questions asked in daily standup call? They should be: What did you do yesterday? What will you do today? Is there anything standing in your way of achieving this goal? The purpose of this meeting should be to tackle these questions every morning for every one.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.